News briefs for April 7

Police official: Chauvin trained to avoid neck pressure

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis police are taught to restrain combative suspects with a knee on their back or shoulders if necessary but are told to “stay away from the neck when possible,” a department use-of-force instructor testified Tuesday at former Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.

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Lt. Johnny Mercil became the latest member of the Minneapolis force to take the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on George Floyd’s neck last May.

Several experienced officers, including the police chief himself, have testified that Floyd should not have been kept pinned to the pavement for close to 9 1/2 minutes by prosecutors’ reckoning as the Black man lay face-down, his hands cuffed behind his back.

According to testimony and records submitted Tuesday, Chauvin took a 40-hour course in 2016 on how to recognize people in crisis — including those suffering mental problems or the effects of drug use — and how to use de-escalation techniques to calm them down.

Sgt. Ker Yang, the Minneapolis police official in charge of crisis-intervention training, said officers are taught to “slow things down and re-evaluate and reassess.”

Navy medic shoots 2 US sailors; is stopped, killed on base

FREDERICK, Md. — A Navy medic shot and wounded two U.S. sailors at a military facility Tuesday, then fled to a nearby Army base where security forces shot and killed him, police and Navy officials said.

Authorities said they had yet to determine what drove 38-year-old Fantahun Girma Woldesenbet to open fire at the facility, located in an office park in Frederick, Maryland.

“We’re still trying to sort through stacks of paper … to figure out exactly what the motive would be,” said Frederick Police Lt. Andrew Alcorn.

Woldesenbet shot the sailors with a rifle inside the facility at the Riverside Tech Park on Tuesday morning, causing people inside to flee, said Frederick Police Chief Jason Lando.

Woldesenbet, a Navy medic assigned to Fort Detrick but who lived in town, then drove to the base, where gate guards who had been given advance notice told him to pull over for a search, said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley. But Woldesenbet immediately sped off, making it about a half-mile into the installation before he was stopped at a parking lot by the base’s police force. When he pulled out a weapon, the police shot and killed him, Talley said.

Myanmar forces arrest comedian, break up doctors’ protest

YANGON, Myanmar — Authorities in Myanmar arrested the country’s best-known comedian on Tuesday as they continue to crack down on people they accuse of helping incite nationwide protests against February’s military coup.

The comedian Zarganar was taken from his home in Yangon by police and soldiers who arrived in two army vehicles, fellow comedian Ngepyawkyaw said on his own Facebook page. Zarganar, 60, is a sharp-tongued satirist who has been in and out of prison since he was active in a failed 1988 popular uprising against a previous military dictatorship. He is also well known for his social work, especially arranging assistance for victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

In the past week, the junta has issued arrest warrants for about 100 people active in the fields of literature, film, theater arts, music and journalism on charges of spreading information that undermines the stability of the country and the rule of law. It was not immediately clear what Zarganar, whose real name is Maung Thura, has been charged with.

Many ordinary protesters and activists are also being arrested every day, according to numerous reports on social media.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, security forces used stun grenades and fired guns Tuesday to break up a march by medical workers who have defiantly continued to protest almost every day against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The army’s takeover set back Myanmar’s gradual return to democracy after five decades of military rule.

Arkansas lawmakers enact transgender youth treatment ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday made the state the first to ban gender confirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth, enacting the prohibition over the governor’s objections.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate voted to override GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the measure, which prohibits doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

Opponents of the measure have vowed to sue to block the ban before it takes effect this summer.

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Hutchinson vetoed the bill Monday following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide. The ban was opposed by several medical and child welfare groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“This legislation perpetuates the very things we know are harmful to trans youth,” Dr. Robert Garofalo, division head of adolescent and young adult medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told reporters on a press conference call held by the Human Rights Campaign. “They’re not just anti-trans. They’re anti-science. They’re anti-public health.”

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